Colorado National Monument

May 5, 2014

A reservation at the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, Colorado, was the only reason we departed Moab, Utah. We usually feel ready to go whenever we break camp and head to our next destination. But not this time. We just didn’t get enough of Moab. So after spending 2 weeks in and around the Colorado National Monument, we are now back in Moab, excited to spend another couple of weeks here before heading north again.

But this post is about our visit to Colorado. Let me begin by admitting that we were warned by our friend Ingrid about taking The Bear up the Monument. She thought we were nuts. We should have listened to her! The park reservation system said we could fit in the campground. And after Ingrid’s warning about the tunnels, we called the park to confirm we could drive through them. Our hearts skipped a beat when we turned onto the Monument Drive entrance and read the sign warning that the tunnels were only 10’6” high. We measure almost 12 ½ feet! But the ranger at the park entrance booth said, “no problem, just stay in the middle.”

We took the Bear through this tunnel!

We took the Bear through this tunnel!

Winding road up to the Saddlehorn Campground

Winding road up to the Saddlehorn Campground

I have to say this was one of the most frightening drives we have ever done. It was only 4 miles up to the campground, but it was the longest 4 miles of my life. The shoulder-less road is skinny and winds up the steep hill with lots of switchbacks. One inch over the white line and you would fall off the cliff. I knew immediately that I would not be going down this road in the RV. We would definitely disconnect The Cub and I would have to drive separately when our stay here ended. Our stay here ended sooner than we had planned.

This is a campsite?

This is a campsite?

The campground is too small for a 40’ RV!! We spent 4 hours trying to set up in 4 different sites. They were all so slanted we couldn’t get level no matter what we tried. We finally squeezed into a skinny site, which was really just a cleared parallel parking space on the edge of the road. Our slide-outs hung into the street. There wasn’t a sitting area, but we were level. We were practically on top of the next person. Plus, this is a no hook-up campground. We need to run our generator to charge the batteries. The only hours allowed for running generators is 8 am to 8 pm. I’ve explained in previous posts that it is hard for us to go 12 full hours without running the generator mainly because of our residential refrigerator. We wanted to get a good charge in before turning in for the night, but at 8:04 pm we got a knock on our door by the camp host telling us to turn off the gen. It was against the rules. Really? 4 minutes over?? And the campground was empty. Nine days here? I think not. We were ready to walk away from the pre-paid 9 days in this campground. The money wasn’t worth 9 days out of my life.

The next morning we pulled in the slides and hit the road. I drove separately, of course. The drive was actually quite beautiful from a car. I met Mike at the Island Acres State Park in Palisade, Colorado. We got a very large site in a pretty park next to the Colorado River. We were happy campers and enjoyed walking Lucy along the path next to the river.

Our spacious campsite at Island Acres State Park next to the Colorado River

Our spacious campsite at Island Acres State Park next to the Colorado River

Since we were feeling the need to make up for the money we lost at the first campground, we wanted to find a free spot to camp. We went to the BLM office and got directions to some open land out beyond the airport. It was perfect! Wide open spaces, sweeping views of the mountains, level ground, and not a soul in sight.

Free campsite on BLM land in Grand Junction

Free campsite on BLM land in Grand Junction

This area is obviously popular with the ATV crowd. We could see all the tracks on the hills around us. Occasionally a few bikes would come around and jump the hills, but it didn’t bother us at all. It was entertaining. And none of them were camping. We had the place all to ourselves at night. Oh, and I also found out that I was getting a refund for my unused nights at Saddlehorn Campground, so I’m very pleased.

A little daytime entertainment

A little daytime entertainment

Then we got a weather report calling for high winds and rain for a couple of days. We considered staying put, but the thought of getting stuck in mud convinced us to go to an RV park until the storm passed. We found a Passport America park in Grand Junction and battened the hatches. Then we went to the movie, ate popcorn and watched a comedy. Perfect way to spend a rainy day!

The typical parking lot style RV park, but we felt secure here for the storm

The typical parking lot style RV park, but we felt secure here for the storm.  This was our view.

Unfortunately, when it came time to check out, their electrical box shorted and caught fire as Mike was unplugging us. It fried our 50-amp plug and we’re just grateful that we have a good surge protector. Mike just went to the local RV parts store, bought a new plug, and everything is fine.

Burned up the 50-amp plug

Burned up the 50-amp plug

Our friends, Al and Ingrid from Live Laugh RV, are also visiting Grand Junction. They had a few days reserved at James Robb State Park in Fruita during the same week as us. That was great fun! We had nightly campfires and lots of socializing. And lots of eating! Ingrid is a wonderful baker and we got to enjoy the fruits of her labors (cookies, pies, cake). Mike was in heaven and I have no will-power around goodies like that! The four of us have many things in common and spent hours sharing stories and laughing a lot.

Our site at James Robb State Park in Fruita, CO

Our site at James Robb State Park in Fruita, CO

The view from our bedroom window

The view from our bedroom window

BBQ dinner with Al, Ingrid, and family

BBQ dinner with Al, Ingrid, and family

Aren't these lovebirds cute?

Aren’t these lovebirds cute?

A night-cap.  Al builds a fire, Mike brings the Frangelico.  Oh yeah.

A night-cap. Al builds a fire, Mike brings the Frangelico. Oh yeah.

Lucy enjoys a run on the grass by the lake

Lucy enjoys a run on the grass by the lake

Ingrid and I take a stroll around the lake

Ingrid and I take a stroll around the lake

Of course, our time here absolutely mandated that we enjoy the hiking opportunities. There is a lovely hike around the lake at the state park campground which I enjoyed several times. Another nearby hike which Lucy is permitted on is the Dinosaur Hill Trail. The trail climbs up and wraps around a hill where a 70-foot-long, 30-ton Apatosaurus dinosaur was discovered in 1900. The highlight of that hike was spotting a yellow-collared lizard. What amazing colors!

Hiking around Dinosaur Hill - excavation site in view

Hiking around Dinosaur Hill – excavation site in view

Yellow Collared Lizard

Yellow Collared Lizard

Dogs aren’t allowed on the trails within the Colorado National Monument, so Lucy had to stay home for our hikes on Corkscrew Trail and Lower Monument Canyon. These were challenging and utterly beautiful hikes that we took on perfect weather days. It felt so good to work out like that!

Climbing the switchbacks up Corkscrew Trail in the Colorado National Monument

Climbing the switchbacks up Corkscrew Trail in the Colorado National Monument

The view from Wedding Canyon trail

The view from Wedding Canyon trail

Enjoying the scenery on the Lower Monument Canyon Trail

Enjoying the scenery on the Lower Monument Canyon Trail

Wildflowers covered the ground

Wildflowers covered the ground

View of Independence Monument

View of Independence Monument

We saw lots of big horn sheep, but I didn't have my good camera with me, darn it!

We saw lots of big horn sheep on the hillsides, but I didn’t have my good camera with me, darn it!

On our final day here, we got the bikes down for 18 miles on the Colorado Riverfront Trail. Going out was great! Coming back was another story. We had 25 mph headwinds that wanted to knock me off the trail. We felt like we were peddling up a steep hill! And I worried about my face getting wind burned. Fortunately, the brewery near the trailhead was having a Blues and Brews Festival that day. So we were able to sooth our weary bones with some great microbrews and replenish our depleted energy stores with beer-battered fish, onion rings, coleslaw, and an angus burger smothered in mushrooms, sautéed onions, and melted Swiss for Mike. We just completely un-did all the good calorie burning from the bike ride.

Riding our bikes on the Colorado Riverfront Trail

Riding our bikes on the Colorado Riverfront Trail

So here it is, May 5, and we just got settled in our boon docking spot back in Moab. The wind is kicking up to 30 mph today and will go even higher tomorrow. So we’ll just sit tight and wait for this to pass. Beautiful weather returns on Wednesday, and our Moab explorations will resume. Can’t wait! In the meantime, we’re celebrating with margaritas since it is Cinco de Mayo. Cheers!

13 thoughts on “Colorado National Monument

  1. Glad everything finally worked out:) Looked like some very nice hikes with Ingrid and Al. Always fun meeting up with friends. But I totally understand why you returned to Moab. We were there for a month last spring and that wasn’t long enough. Enjoy your time there!!

    I have a question on your frig. We also have a residential refrigerator that we had put in. We will boondock for a few days but that’s it. We leave the frig off except when we run the generator for two hours in the AM and two hours at night. However, I was just reading about a fellow that does the same generator thing but leaves his frig on all day. He doesn’t have extra batteries. Do you leave your frig on all the time? Do you have extra batteries? Thanks!

    • We leave the refrigerator on at all times. We have 4 house batteries. They are high amp 6 volt deep cell Interstate batteries. Later this summer we plan to install solar panels and add batteries. Until then, we need to run the generator about 4 hrs a day when we are boondocking.

      • Mike/Linda…I did the solar panels/batteries/charger upgrade last year on my Phaeton. (6) 300amp (1800 amps) Lifeline AGM’s, 650 watts of panels on roof and a 65 amp controller. I used AM Solar…a great class act company and Greg knows his stuff on mobile solar… I would be more than happy to send you picts of our installation along with trying to answer any questions you might have… By the way; we also have a 22 cu.ft.residential frig. Let me know…
        Maynard Correll [our blog]… http://www.freewheelin.me or my email: maynard.correll118@gmail.com

      • My husband just asked me if you open and use the frig during the day when the genie isn’t on or do you you try to keep it closed? Thanks for patiently answering my questions:)

      • Yes, we use the frig during the day. I’d say we use it the same as we did when we lived in a house. We also draw water and ice from the dispenser on the door.

      • I should also add that we always park facing west, so that our refrigerator is on the shady side during the longest and hottest hours of the day. Our refrigerator is on our curb side. We also keep the refrigerator always running because we have a lot of frozen meat and stuff in the freezer which we don’t want to compromise.

  2. Great post Linda. You sure managed to take in quite a bit of Grand Junction while you were here. We’ve hiked The Monument the last couple of days and hope to bike the river front tomorrow. I also want to do that Dinosaur Hill trail….perhaps I can find one of those unique lizards myself 🙂

  3. Great photos… I love Moab, Utah! I loved the Lizard! Oh and the lake photo and the trails and… well, I think you get what I am trying to say! I loved getting to visit Moab…once again! Thank you!

  4. Hi there! Just got back to VA a few hours ago. Left Interlude in St. Augustine and drove home…about 11hrs. Glad to see that you are still having a great time on The Bear! Always enjoy your blog. Hugs to you, Mike and Miss Lucy!

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